Friday, May 13, 2011

What Systemic Sin Looks Like - Part 2

Here is another example and some more thoughts on the topic introduced in this post. 
South LA is historicially black and hispanic. It’s an area that is, at its highest economic level, made up of the poor and working class. The schools are the lowest performing in the state. The Community Coalition of South Los Angeles is a network of charter schools that guarantee that their students will not only graduate, but get into college. The CC works to get their students admitted and to raise the finances necessary to cover the first year of college.

In 2001, the CC ran into a bit of an unsuspected snag with that guarantee. The snag was regarding the school’s saludictorian, Roxanna. The school’s leaders had put off Roxanna’s college application work till the end of the school year, assuming there would be no problem getting the student with the school’s second highest GPA into a college. But they were wrong. As it turned out, Roxanna wasn’t able to apply to even the basic state universities because she was missing a chemistry class required by the collegiate system of California. So the leaders of the Community Coalition began to research this problem.

In their research, they discovered that the main reason black and hispanic kids in CA did not go to college was neither grades nor test scores, but simply because they’re missing one or two required math or science classes. In fact, a higher percentage of black and hispanic students take the SAT’s (meaning they intended to go to college) than their white and asian peers. No matter their test scores, however, these black and hispanic high school graduates are not allowed into state universities because they lack one or two of those required classes.
Further research uncovered an epidemic of low income schools not having enough offerings of these required classes to meet the demand in the schools. There were too many prospective students but not enough teachers. In response to this inequity, the Community Coalition started a campaign to inform the community that their high school students could make all A’s through high school but still not get into college.

The Community Coalition eventually introduced legislation to the school board and state legislature to open up more class offerings in the lower income schools. The response from the state legislature blew the minds of these educational reformers, uncovering a massive prejudice and the presence of systemic evil. In response to the proposed legislation to change class offerings, Liberal and Democratic state senators asked these education reformers, “if these kids all get a college education, who will fix my car when it breaks?” Seriously. Elected officials made those types of statements.
In addition to the pushback from the elected state congress, the Community Coalition also faced opposition from lobbying groups. Who were the lobbyists? The organizations that typically employ low income blacks and hispanics; agricultural, textile, garmet, construction trade lobbyists. After two years of fighting the attitude of “those kids in your neighborhoods have plenty of job options – all these low paying service jobs,” the Community Coalition gave up on the proposed legislation.

They didn’t, however, give up on their proposed equality-creating changes. With the surprising help of a local construction company that realized their employees at least needed basic algebra, they were able to start classes at the local level, helping these low-income students gain access to the college education easily accessible to their high-income peers.

In working to name, unmask and overcome systemic sin and oppression, we must avoid the extremes of the current political debate.  If we're too conservative, we'll say "the individual is to blame - the individual must make better choices."  If we're too liberal, we'll say, "the individual has no culpability - the individual is a victim of the system and had no individual choice." 

Both views have some truth but both views also have a lot of mistruth. 

In the New Testament, we see that individuals are culpable, accountable, forgiveable and redeemable.  And if we'd simply take off the blinders of our North American individualism, we'd see that in the New Testament that systems are also culpable, accountable, forgiveable and redeemable. 

The greek word from which we get the english word "world" is the word "cosmos."  Cosmos implies not only the created world but also the systems and powers of the world's governments.  Keep that in mind each time you read "world." 

John 3:16:  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Romans 12:2: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

James 2:5:  "Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?"

Colossians 2:15 "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."

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